Everybody I know likes a good laugh. Healthcare may be a serious business, but people in the field have a good sense of humor. I know, having endured my share of ribbing and practical jokes.
So here is a joke for you: There are two muffins baking in an oven and one of them yells, Wow, its hot in here! And the other muffin replies, Holy cow! A talking muffin! For most people, that joke isnt remotely funny, but it turns out that that may not be the point. According to an article in the March 13 edition of the New York Times, headlined Whats so funny? Well, maybe nothing, researchers have discovered something that has eluded those who have studied why people laugh. A professor by the name of Robert Provine believes that generations of philosophers and clinicians have been barking up the wrong tree, trying to see what constitutes humor. It is laughter itself that is the issue, not what makes a stand-up routine work, he says.
Provine started his research about 20 years ago by coaxing people into his laboratory at the University of Maryland to watch episodes of Saturday Night Live and a George Carlin routine. They wound up laughing very little. So he changed directions and went into natural habitats like city sidewalks and suburban malls. There he was able to observe thousands of laugh episodes. It turns out that 80% to 90% of the laughing he heard came after straight lines like I know or Ill see you guys later. Furthermore, he concluded in his 2000 book, Laughter, that most social humor is like that of an interminable television situation comedy scripted by an extremely ungifted writer.